Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC) first opened in 1978. Today, they have grown into one of the largest community health centers in the Northwest, with over 40 clinics in 18 communities across Washington and Oregon. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic Outreach Program Director Maria Benavides.

What does working at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic mean to you?

Working here means that each of our patients and clients have an array of programs and services to empower them to live a healthier quality of life. Not only does our clinic focus on how we can meet our patients’ needs, but there’s also an equal emphasis on ensuring that staff have the best benefits possible. Therefore, as a 20-year YVFWC employee, I know that the work we do is meaningful and has a positive impact on our communities! 

What one thing makes you most proud?

The one thing I am most proud of is when I see former colleagues/students in leadership positions serving their community. To see the next generation growing on a professional level and hearing about their successes always re-energizes me to continue to do what I do.

Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic opened to provide health care services for agricultural workers. What are some measures your health center is taking to bridge the health care gap?

YVFWC provides a variety of services and public health programs to ensure our families have the skills and resources needed to thrive by addressing social determinants of health. YVFWC understands our communities need more than a visit to their provider to become healthy. According to a YVFWC 2021 report, almost 191,000 patients received services, with almost 64% identifying themselves as Hispanic/Latino. Other key demographics show almost 20% of patients served were migrant and seasonal agricultural workers. We provide home visiting services to new families and expecting mothers, parenting classes, and have staff in clinics to assist patients addressing social determinants of health and taking preventative services into the community through our mobile medical and dental units. In addition, chronic disease self-management classes are offered in Spanish and led by community members who have been trained to deliver this evidence-based best practice program. Northwest Community Action Center—a division of YVWFC focused on eliminating poverty through education programs—provides emergency services, secures housing for families, aids with utility bill payments, and offers ESL and citizenship classes.

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month theme is “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.” Why is it important for your organization to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

It’s important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because it’s an opportunity to celebrate Latinos and their contributions to our nation. In addition, it allows for each one of us to look beyond our own culture and appreciate the beauty of other cultures that make us one.

 If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for the communities you serve?

I wish many of our patients had access to high quality healthcare, education, and could grow up in safe environments during their childhood. Many patients being seen today come with trauma and adversity that raises the risk of having chronic conditions later in life. It’s important that YVFWC continues providing holistic health to reduce the number of children being impacted by trauma.     

You can learn more about Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic and their impactful work at www.yvfwc.com/.

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